Why Do I Love Terrible Things: Glee

We keep a little spreadsheet of post ideas and publish dates around here at The Friendship Shore headquarters.  When I opened it up just now to see what my next post should be about, a big grin spread across my face.  “Glee” read the topic cell.  The chorus singing the word “Glee!” like at the beginning of each episode rang out in my head.  This is one of my favorite guilty pleasures.  Perfect for for my first “Why Do I Love Terrible Things?” article.

To start with, Glee had an amazing campaign leading up to its release.  They marketed the show heavily to amp up its debut following the 2009 Super Bowl.  Then, they used Hulu, which was relatively new product, to re-release the first episode later.  The producers managed to score Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” to be performed in the pilot, then used in ads for three months.  (Fun fact:  Heidi HATES that song!)   There was so much buzz surrounding Glee, I was so excited to see it.

I graduated from college in June of 2009 and moved back to Portland.  Sometime shortly thereafter, one of my few friends in town invited me over to watch the pilot.  He was house sitting at a gorgeous apartment in Northwest Portland with hardwood floors and a clawfoot tub.  The owners had a Wii that my friend had hooked up to Hulu–this was a very new feature on the website.  So fancy, I thought!

My relationship with Glee following that first magical night in Portland has been rocky.  There have been so many highs (Santana singing “Valerie”, Neil Patrick Harris’ guest appearance, Sue’s relationship with her disabled sister, Jean) and so many crushing lows (Rachel and Shelby’s duet version of “Poker Face”, the mess that was the Rocky Horror Picture Show episode, Sebastian), let’s discuss:

Pro:  Treatment of Gay Rights
No discussion of Glee would leave out the show’s stance on gay rights.  It features a lovely range of gay characters–from the moderately flamboyant to the cross-dressing.  The show doesn’t do a great job of producing nuanced characters, so the lack of a completely average Joe homosexual character isn’t surprising.  Blaine and Kurt have a completely stable, committed relationship in terms of what can be expected from high school boys.  When Wade Adams reveals his female identity, Unique, during a Glee competition, she’s met by a gloriously receptive crowd.  So much so that the pressure to be a role model almost keeps Wade from competing at nationals.

There are lots of gay male role models on the show.  Lesbians and other gay female role models are a bit lacking in comparison.  However, Santana and Britney’s relationship seems to be a mature one.  The show has spent less time on them than on Blaine and Kurt, but it doesn’t seem like a caricature of a relationship.  I do wish the show would bring in more female examples of LGBT role models because if they don’t soon, it’s going to start to feel sexist.

Indeed. (Source)

Con:  The “Rocky Horror” Debacle
Let’s start with this:  “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is not appropriate material for a high school musical.  I’m really not a stuffy person, but the last thing I want to see is high schoolers playing such adult roles, especially not at a live performance.  This is one of many, many examples of Will Schuester’s not having any idea of what’s socially appropriate.
Continuing the “who could have possibly thought this was OK” theme in this episode, Carl Howell (aka John Stamos) is cast as Eddie (played by Meatloaf in the film).  It’s weird enough to have young kids in such sexualized roles, but tossing a single adult into the cast makes it even more awkward.  Especially having him in a role that could have been played by, I don’t know, any random high school kid.  Of course, Mr. Schue realizes that and to make things better, he casts himself as Rocky.  Being socially appropriate as usual, he decides not to perform in full costume with the students.  Instead, he just strips and seduces a co-worker while in character.  Full of class, good sir.

Pro:  Talent
There are lots of things I can complain about when it comes to this show, but pure singing talent is not a problem.  The arrangements and song choices can be weak, but the actual singing is always good at the very least.  Examples of great moments:

Thanks, Will! (Source)

Con:  Over-Simplifying
One of my first issues with Glee was their portrayal of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.  Ms. Pilsberry started season one off as a complete caricature of a person with OCD.  Having known people with OCD, I was disappointed in the writers’ decision to blow the disorder out of proportion.  There are people who are much more normal than Emma was who struggle and I think it would have been more meaningful if they had treated the disorder with a gentler hand.  However, I appreciate that the show was receptive to viewer feedback and dialed it back (with Will Schuester’s help, of course!)

There’s also the more recent issue of domestic abuse.  The show uses football coach Biest to talk about domestic violence to show that it can happen to anyone.  Great, except all they do is insinuate it.  I’m not saying it didn’t happen and I’m certainly not saying domestic violence shouldn’t be talked about.  What I am saying is that it seems like the writers pulled it out of a “hat of episode ideas” and didn’t treat the topic with respect or delicacy, like it deserved.

So why is it that I watch?  The entertainment value.  The characters can be ridiculous and the plot overly dramatic, but that’s why it’s fun!  I enjoy griping about how heavy handed the show is with social issues.  I love laughing at Britney’s airheaded antics.  I really love the costuming.  It’s just television; I don’t expect it to be above critique.  I want there to be flaws that I can pick at.  I feel more connected to shows that, in fact, do have some downfalls, because I enjoy it even more when they’re able to redeem themselves.  Maybe I just have a thing for underdogs.

Minnie wishes her high school had been a little bit more like McKinley.

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